BEWARE of 'old' Federal Pacific breaker boxes

7 Replies

I dont really know for sure where to post this,,,if it needs moved thats fine.

I became aware for the first time about a year ago after googling Federal pacific breakers,,,as I was shopping for some double thin ones to stretch box space.  Local prices were ridiculously high.  Found out why.  Very few of those old boxes still being used,,and there problems of breakers NOT tripping and burning down the house.

All I needed was a problem in that area.  I went to or big box store and for about 250 bucks bought all supplies needed to change out to a modern ew 200 amp box.  Why so big you ask,,,well IF I ever want to I can put a tankless electric wateer heater in it because of size,,,it takes like 3 50 amp breakers.  Electrician mounted it in,,connected all my new run wire,,,charged me $750 bucks

SO in recap,,for not many dollars I completely rewired my entire house top to bottom and inside to out.  (Unless it was just installed wire a year ago) including replacing an old outdated too small dangerous service box.  Including doubling or tripling wall outlets and installing 3 way light switches where two door rooms are located.  All thanks to LAST tenant that heated the house with elec space heaters on the crappiest knob and tube wiring you ever saw on 2 circuits for about whole house.  I always replace regular bulbs with cfl to conserve elec. use,keep wires cooler from less amps, and whiter lights

Disclaimers: I am not a professional electrician.  I am not affiliated with any companies or sites mentioned.

I've never had to swap one out in a house, but I've read about the Federal Pacific Electric problems before.  Basically, the breakers don't trip, no matter what amount of overload is going through them.  This site has lots of info about it...

At least according to that site, some other makes to watch out for are Bulldog Pushmatic and Zinsco:

Houses I have lived in before have had GE, Square D, and Cutler-Hammer breaker panels.  I could (and have, for two GE panels) walk into any hardware store and buy reasonably-priced breakers, made by the panel manufacturer, that would fit and work in a 30, 40, or 50 year old panel.  It's harder to do that with some of the other brands.

These panels are a huge fire hazard, and are even particularly worse when combined with aluminum wiring. When I see these death boxes I know it's going to cost me or my client $2200 right away to replace and do a heavy up.

At least we dont fight aluminum wire here.  have never seen any, not to say it doesnt exist.  I tore some old mobile homes down and they did have some, some didnt.

I think IF you go to buy a replacement breaker and its 50 bucks and up,,,you MAY have a problem.  If its 5 bucks probably not,,,JUST a observation.  I bought a breaker or two a few years ago and thought it VERY odd the price they ask.  Guess you have to pay those class action suits with something,,,charge it back to the customers

When breakers dont trip when they are supposed to,bad things happen.  About the same as the old time fuses they screwed pennies in when they overloaded a circuit.  Its really stange they didnt have to replace EVERY panel and breaker they ever built.  Wonder how many deaths this has already caused? Now and future deaths?

Wow, good information.  Thanks.  I was not aware of this issue.  I'm actually rehabbing 2 homes right now and I'm embarrassed to say I have no idea what brand of panels they have in them.

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